As we wind down the year and turn our attention toward the next, I want to review some of the MMOs I think we should be watching in 2019. Please note that I am not saying that this is a list of what comes out, or a list of what I think will be the best games. These are simply games worth watching, and my reasons for putting them on this this are below.
Yesterday I did my yearly review of the MMOs launched in 2018, and it was depressing. Basically, nothing new and worth playing released this year. The games that did release were once again disasters, shovelware, and/or foreign cash grabs.
There is, however, a bright spot in upcoming MMORPGs for this next year, and it's completely playable right now: Legends of Aria.
Legends of Aria hearkens back to the old school MMORPG days of games like Ultima Online. LoA is an open-world sandbox and community-driven MMO. There's no hand holding or gameplay structure for you to follow. You log in and immediately must begin forging your own path through the world and deciding what you will be, how you will do it, where you will go, what you will see and do, or just about everything else along the way.
Looking back at the the MMO industry has become a bit of a yearly ritual now. Twelve years ago this would have been a monumental undertaking and bordering impossible to achieve in just one post. These days, however, this exercise is more about looking at how little actually happened for MMOs.
First, let's define terms. For this post, MMORPGs released in 2018 means actual MMORPGs (we'll accept MMOs too, but not faux-mmo) commercially released this calendar year. I don't count expansions, though the honorable mentions are Battle for Azeroth and Summerset.
What am I using to determine what came out? I like the MMORPG.com list, but I'll be critiquing their generous use of the label.
Patch 8.1 for WoW dropped on Tuesday. This is the first major patch for the Battle for Azeroth expansion. Let's cut right to the chase. People are generally unhappy with the direction of this expansion.
There are a plethora of reasons, but some of the big ones are:
In my last post I pointed out that "LFG" is still very much a thing in modern MMOS -- even the most "accessible" ones. The interfaces have been updated, but the concept is still 100% there.
Today I want to point out how this idea of solo-friendly gameplay is also largely an illusion. When people look back on MMOs from 1997-2003 they often think of how those games were really not solo friendly at all. Then they look at modern MMOs as a bastion of "play by yourself all you want" which is completely false.
Let's compare the old school games like EQ (circa 1999), SWG, UO, etc., to today's accessible giant.
I was watching a video about an upcoming MMO and it was talking about the grouping experience and how it wouldn't have the Dungeon Finder mechanic of putting you into a random group and teleporting you right to the instance. Instead, you would need to do the traditional LFG process of finding people, forming the group, running there all manually.
A lot of people will say that the LFG process is dead and long gone, meant for an older generation of MMORPG. They'll say that LFG is tedious, etc.
Playing WoW for the past 6 months has shown me that the LFG model is actually alive and doing quite well. Though the pioneer of the aforementioned Dungeon Finder, WoW still utilizes the LFG system for its core gameplay.
I was watching Legends of Aria from a distance for quite some time. I've been burned by the games purporting to be a spiritual successor of the original MMOs. Haven't we all? After many of you messaged me or commented here on the blog about how much you were enjoying it, I decided now was a decent time to drop $30 and jump into the "early access" before the steam release.
I just bought the game yesterday, so these are the preliminary thoughts from an absolute newb. I went into this without reading a single guide. I made my character with zero knowledge about how any of this works. I chose abilities that looked fun, and I jumped right into the world.
Yesterday’s reminiscing about Ultima Online and the uncertain future of the MMORPG industry had me reflecting on this question: “What made Ultima Online, the oft-referred grandfather of MMORPGs, successful?”
UO had roughly 100,000 paying subscribers around 6 months after it released in September of 1997. Most people would agree it was an amazing game — it was “the next best thing” of its time.
Have you seen the list of games that released in 1997? Go ahead and Google it. On that list are some of the widely acknowledged best games of all times. Many of them outsold UO. Many of them are far better remembered — probably most of them. And a great many of them sure looked and played a heck of a lot more advanced than UO.
So it wasn’t the prettiest or most complicated game and it didn’t have the widest appeal. What then?
Smedley’s tweet to Raph Koster has made its rounds in the MMO sphere these past few days. Raph was talking about simulationism and Smed chimed in talking about deep ai and machine learning as the future — to which Raph agrees. The next statements are what made the headlines. Raph says to imagine UO’s original ecology, to which Smed says he already accomplished it with Hero’s Song (that game he failed to make a few years ago) and that he ‘will‘ make ‘that‘ game which is the next EverQuest.
We’re all going to have our different answers on this one. What do you think is the biggest challenge about playing an MMORPG? To really answer this question, we have to toss aside some of the obvious disqualifiers. The obvious answers that don’t count (but are indirectly valid) would relate to having an MMORPG even worth playing, having one that doesn’t fail after 3 months, etc. Assuming there is a game that’ll last for a while, what challenges do you face?